With the start of the New Year comes the start of a new list of resolutions. Individuals across the nation are addressing their bad habits, taking steps to lead a healthier lifestyle and working to boost their personal happiness. One resolution that needs to be on everyone’s list for 2015 is the promise to act in a more sustainable manner and to drastically reduce the amount of waste going to our landfills.
Our everyday actions are powerful and will impact the integrity of our world and quality of life for future generations. The amount of waste generated in the U.S. is alarmingly high and it is crucial not only to cut down these numbers, but to work toward closing the loop between production and disposal.
According to the United States' Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the amount of “municipal solid waste (MSW), more commonly known as trash or garbage,” we create yearly steadily rose form 88.1 million tons in 1960 to 253.7 million tons in 2010. It then ever so slightly fell and plateaued: we created 250.4 million tons in 2010 and 250.9 million tons in 2012. The numbers for 2014 have yet to be released.
These statistics demonstrate the need for every person to be aware of the waste that they produce, and to take the initiative to reduce, reuse and recycle rather than add unnecessary items to the landfills.
At Mackenzie, practicing sustainable behavior is at the top of our priority list.
Not only do we offer green building design solutions to our clients, but Mackenzie is also taking steps within our offices to reduce our ecological footprint. After conducting a waste audit in 2014, we found that 52% of our solid waste stream contained compostable items* and an additional 13% was made up of items that could be recycled. In response to these numbers, our sustainability committee launched and interoffice recycling and composting campaign.
The initiative, which has since been put into action, removed every employee’s desk-side waste bins and added larger double-stream units for waste and mixed recycling items at six common locations. Strategically, these locations are near printers to make it easy for employees to recycle misprinted papers rather than tossing them into the trash. The goal of this change was not only to make it convenient for people to recycle and compost, but to promote active thought in regard to how items should properly be disposed — for example, rather than mindlessly tossing one’s banana peel in the trash bin underneath their desk, employees now have to get up, walk to the multi-stream units, and be reminded of the option to compost.
In addition to the six double-stream units, two triple-stream units, which add the option to compost were added to locations people commonly eat and the kitchens now meet the needs of five streams: compost items, glass recyclables, mixed-recyclables, cans and bottles to be donated to Cans 4 Kids, and waste items.
To change an entire organization’s behaviors is not an easy feat, but the task is manageable with consistent, open communication. The sustainability committee clearly defined this initiative’s goals, the steps needed to collectively meet them, gained support from leadership, planned to conduct annual waste audits, and sent out regular reminders to keep people informed and involved.
In addition, a competition was created to motivate and engage employees in the effort. The new bins needed clear, communicative signage describing which items belonged where in order to educate the staff and communicate the information in a variety of ways. The signage also needed to fit in with the Mackenzie brand. The winning concept was created by Ron Heiden,Tami Danisch, Kaitlin North, Steven Tuttle and Elizabeth Auvil and is pictured below.
These steps Mackenzie is taking to commit to more sustainable practices company-wide are universal solutions that can be adopted by any organization. We encourage others to do the same and are confident that when we complete our 2015 waste audit, the percentage of items sent to the landfills will be dramatically reduced.
*At the time of the waste audit, food and non-food items were collected in the commercial composting program. However, as of March 1, 2015, only food scraps will be accepted.